Mast Books remolds the choose your own adventure genre in exhibition form

A detective, a doctor, a race car driver, a spy—the possibilities are endless when selecting an avatar in the choose your own adventure realm. Mast Books presents a group show channeling the genre, C.Y.O.A.: The Suturing of Objects. Organized by Reece Francis Perkins, the exhibition in the Downtown shop read like its own adaptable journey; laid out in an alphabetical list of prompts stacked on the front desk.

Patrons are presented with options to understand the five artists in the show: “I) Mind-game movie-object is modular and thus encourages ‘flashback, time travel, and temporal dislocation,’” or “L) Re-imagine movie making as object-games in stitches of a coherent reality and attend to its own wholeness.” Drawings from Paul Sharits, an original member of Fluxus (an international movement in the ’60s and ’70s that prized process over product) decorate Mast’s entrance, diagramming the procedure behind his illustration as artwork itself. A miniature by contemporary artist Bradley Kronz protrudes from the corner—what looks to be crumbled lavender concealed by a piece of cardboard, guarded by tiny velvet rope barriers. Ada Wickens collates thousands of anime characters into a single 3D-printed sculpture, which—alongside still photographs from filmmaker Ericka Beckman’s more dreamlike early film sets—provide a sensory backdrop that underscores the entire show: Beyond artistic choice, there is will. Beyond the narrative, there is the procedure.

Left: Bradley Kronz, State of Survival, 2023. Right: Ada Wickens, Self Portrait as A Perfect Object of Desire

On the store’s back wall, the category-resistant Bennett D.H. Smith shows A Personal History of G.W. Pabst, three site-specific triptychs based on a book on the life of the Austrian silent filmmaker. Collaged across DVD packaging and wobbly wooden frames, the series reimagines Pabst’s life as a work in progress, smattered across torn plastic jackets, a Blu-Ray copy of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, or a disc painted with two dancing figures showing through their translucent cases.

C.Y.O.A. embodies the autonomous structure of the genre it’s named after, while readjusting to, reforming, and reperforming the ideas artists typically only reveal in their studios: highlighting work that both shows a depth of concept, and tells audiences what it means explicitly, in a diagram, a photograph, a small mound of herbs protected by stanchions. The show’s last prompt tells audiences this, in as many words: “M) Find sympathy for mystery.”

Bennett D.H. Smith, A Personal History of G.W. Pabst, 2023.

C.Y.O.A.: The Suturing of Objects is on view at Mast Books until November 21.